Donegal Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill has criticised the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton for issuing letters to social welfare recipients which imply that their payments must be transferred to banks.
The letters to jobseekers and those on the pre-retirement allowance state that “instead of receiving your weekly payment at the post office, this can be lodged directly into your bank or building society account.”
Senator Ó Domhnaill said, “These letters reveal just how little support the Government has for our post office network. They clearly indicate how our local post offices will be affected by the change to electronic payment of social welfare entitlements. It’s estimated that 500 post offices will close within two years as a result, unless the Government takes action to support the network.
“Advancements in technology do not have to spell the end of our post office. There are many other steps the Government can take to ensure that local post offices remain a busy and vibrant part of the community. Unfortunately these latest letters issued to social welfare recipients show nothing but disregard for the business of local post offices.
“The letters fail to outline the fact that job seekers and those on the pre-retirement allowance can continue to receive their weekly payment through the post office if they wish. They even include a form seeking the bank details of each social welfare recipient, indicating that they have no other option but to transfer their payments to their bank. This is simply not true. It’s caused great confusion and distress to many people, who have a regular routine of going to the local post office to pick up their payments.
“I find the Government’s approach to this very disappointing. It underlines a lack of interest in keeping our local post offices open. Fianna Fáil has published proposals to enhance the post office network and secure the future of rural post offices. I am urging the Government to seriously consider these proposals and take decisive action to save our local post offices.”